Back to Basics: Reflections Weekend

Not much to write in this post.

I’ve been going slow this weekend.  The pain is intense, and being kind to myself is most important right now.

A lot of times, I can sleep or rest and reflect – that allows everyone in the system to share and help each other safely – but other times I need to move.

This weekend was a “move” weekend in spite of the intense back pain (body memories) and associated grief – more on that in another post.  Plus I had to start packing for my trip and my move.

So I turned cleaning, de-cluttering, and packing into reflective moving meditation exercises.  And got more than I expected accomplished.

Then I took today to clean my kitchen (dread….) and organize my place for a showing.

Finally, I took a nap.

Now I can relax knowing this post is finished – all my obligations met – and I’m prepared to continue working and packing during the week.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Working through nightmares

Nightmares are terrible experiences to work through at any time.  When you have alter personalities and switch in your sleep, the lack of awareness can cause problems.  By lack of awareness I mean not realizing when I am: shouting, screaming, crying, talking, kicking, punching, thumping, and so on while I am paralyzed (locked inside my body).  Usually my noise happens when I’m having a dream that involves anger and fighting.  All that means the neighbors get annoyed.  They start making noise.  And no one in the system is sure who or when or how the issue was resolved.

And yes, I’m having nightmares.  Or maybe reliving experiences as I sleep?  Or maybe I’m asleep and my alters are awake having flashbacks?  So confusing, yet so real.

As I told the admissions council during my second interview, some part of me is always awake.  I never truly sleep.  But I do get lots of rest.  And lately, my wireless headphones have been a blessing.  I can block out the construction, the neighbors, the cars, the wind when windows are open and get some rest.

Downside is that I can’t exactly hear when my neighbors bang on the door or the wall to get me to quiet down with the headphones on.  And when the neighbors do bang and shout, I’m not sure it’s me or someone else they want to quiet down.  Or if the new neighbors are moving furniture/drunk and walking into things, etc.

But I also have new neighbors.  They happen to be younger and louder than the others.  Also chattier and with chatty guests who visit at all hours.  And some like to smoke in the building even though that’s against the rules.  So any or all of this could be happening while I’m trying to sleep.

And whoever’s in charge at the time will take care of these issues.  So far, no complaints from the property manager about noise or other issues.  But the banging and music do startle awake and make some alters tense up.  To be honest, I’m not sure if any of us actually get out of bed to talk with the neighbors at night or just stay in bed hoping it will stop.  And I am kind of afraid of what could happen if one of us does try to chat with the loud neighbor.

As for basic coping strategies, here is this week’s list:

  • Airing out the apartment – warm enough to keep windows open a few days last week
  • Feeling comfortable (not to cold or hot) in bed
  • Gratitude affirmations
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Self massage and use of acupressure points
  • Letting the memories flow – aka alters share memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with everyone else
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to favorite nature sounds
  • Re-reading old favorites and some new books
  • Staying inside
  • Sleeping when I can; resting when I can’t; eating when I feel hungry
  • Letting myself be

It’s the downside to apartment living, especially micro-apartment living.  Small spaces crowded next to each other; soundproof that isn’t truly soundproof; and a basic lack of privacy from having neighbors so close.  Too bad I can’t afford my own house on a quiet street with very few neighbors and lots of beautiful trees.

But now that my secret life isn’t so secret anymore and we aren’t expending so much energy living two lives, maybe this lack of energy and need for solitude will lessen.  I’ve actually spent more time outside my apartment and interacting with people in the last two weeks than I did for the last 3 months.  And as much as I liked it (all parts in the system really enjoyed it), spending time chatting with people and in crowds really drained my energy.  So now we’re all back to figuring out how to refill the well.

Thanks for reading

 

Back to Basics: Mindful Cooking

Warning: Potentially triggering and detailed content in this post.  I tried to insert a “read more” tag after the “And yet…” subtitle, but please do not read past there if you feel uncomfortable

Background

I love cooking.  As a child, one of the ways I got personal attention and approval was through the cooking process.  There was a wealth of knowledge handed down to me as I sat or stood in the kitchen with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and yes parents learning basic food preparation and storage skills.

When I think of the smells in my grandparents’ kitchen, I feel safe.

When I think of standing on a chair stirring sauce in a pot with my uncle, I feel loved.

When I try to remember how to “properly” marinate meat to get the tender, melt-in-your mouth feel, my mind draws a blank.

When I try to chop common vegetables like carrots, celery, onions, or broccoli, my hands start to shake.

And yet…

Read More »

Back to Basics: Organizing my Disordered Eating Habits

Different Post format today

Background

I practiced anorexia/was anorexic for 15-20 years; starting with childhood neglect (not always being fed) and “participation” in my mother’s diets as she tried to lose “baby weight”.  Diagnosis and recovery started in 2004.  Remission or full recovery started in 2015.  I wouldn’t be where I am now without a lot of help and support from my care team – especially the dietitian who helped recreate a healthy relationship with food.

Food has always been a big deal in my family.  Weight loss and weight-related illness is a big struggle for many family members.  Part of the anorexia started because I didn’t want to be like them – obsessed about food; unable to stop eating; sick all the time; having to take lots of medicine; being made fun of and criticized for my weight and looks.  Another part had to do with self-punishment and being in control of some small part of my life when everything else was out of my control; I love food and cooking so not letting myself eat and not cooking hurt a lot.  Finally, the anorexia was about body hate; I hated being female and having a curvy female body.

Recovery, Relapse, Restart

The first thing I did when my therapist finally convinced me I was anorexic (and this took 3 months of weekly counseling sessions) was buy a book about anorexia nervosa.  The second thing I did was try to talk to my parents.  Third, I asked my primary care physician for assistance.  Finally, I took matters into my own hands and started research/recovery with my therapist at the time in secret.

I started gaining weight and got really bloated.  The weight gain was noticed; I started getting concerned looks from some and gleeful looks from others.  Concerned by family members who worried that I was getting overweight and might develop diabetes.  Gleeful from family members who were jealous of my skinny body and happy that I was looking fat or fatter than them.  Then came the lectures on behalf of my mom who was “worried about me” since I “refused to listen to her”.

Those comments hurt, but I was committed to getting better.  I didn’t want to be in pain all the time or allergic to 35 different kinds of food.  I didn’t want to be tired all the time or constantly sick.  I wanted to be healthy and active again.  I wanted to walk and practice martial arts or yoga without knee and back pain that plagued me since adolescence.

Starting the Process

My first real relapse came in 2007 after I moved out on my own for the first time.  I lost about 8-10 lbs in 3 months.  It was the weight loss that spurred me into getting help again.  First a primary care doctor who I could trust.  She recommended me to a dietitian who specialized in eating disorders.  Later both suggested I start therapy again, so I started looking for someone.  This therapist did not work in trauma, but she helped with everything else.

Between the two of them (dietitian and therapist), I learned that I was:

  • Afraid of food
  • Afraid of my body
  • Afraid of looking attractive
  • Clueless about nutrition
  • and Confused about diets and dietary needs

Then my dietitian moved to another department within the program, and I got someone new.  Her approach was different, and I was wary at first.  We’ve been working together for the last 8 years with a lot of success.  The second dietitian helped me understand more about diets and nutrition.  We addressed my food fears and body fears with facts about how different kinds of food help improve different body functions – mini anatomy and physiology lessons.

Redefining What Food Means to Me

Through my work with the second dietitian, I rediscovered my love of food and learned to separate my body negativity from my desire to be healthy.  The last few years have been focused on getting healthy and discovering what healthy means to me not about weight gain or appearance (that didn’t come until last year).

So what does food mean to me?

  • Food comes from a plant, a fungus, a bacteria, or a living organism (fish, fowl, animals, etc.)
  • Food does not come from a laboratory or genetically modified living organism
  • Food can be created by processes like fermentation (beer, miso, tempeh, pickling, canning) and dehydrating to name a few, but not by chemicals and additives
  • Food is nutrient dense with a variety in calories.
  • Food is colorful like a rainbow and goes through a decomposition process after it ripens
  • Food can be eaten raw, cooked, or baked
  • A variety of food per meal is more tasty, interesting, and nutritious than the same foods all the time
  • Food has to taste and feel good going in (chewing), going through (digesting), and going out (removing toxins) in order to help me maintain my health
  • Food is separate from how I look in the mirror or what others think of my body

And how does that relate to health?

 

Once I learned to separate my negative body image and body self-hate from my food thoughts, I started to heal.  After I decided to let myself enjoy food, my food allergies started to go away.  Once I decided it was okay to be “fat” and gain weight, my weight normalized.

This means I eat when I am hungry; drink fluids when I am thirsty; used the bathroom when my body says it needs to release toxins; and exercise as much as possible to maintain flexibility, stamina, bone density, and muscle development.

My focus is on nutrient dense foods that I don’t have to eat a lot of and are easy to cook 80% of the time and everything else 20% of the time.  That gives me leeway to experiment or to try out new/different foods for grounding and self-soothing purposes as part of a coping strategy.

“New” Eating Habits 

  • Flexibility is key
  • Eat a lot of nutrient dense food in small portions throughout the day
  • Eat until I am full and then stop; I can always eat later
  • Remember to hydrate or drink soup with one or two meals to get enough liquids
  • Smoothies can be meals too and are easy to digest
  • It’s okay to eat junk food sometimes
  • Denial and restriction only make me feel worse not better
  • Too much dairy and animal protein causes digestion problems so eat sparingly
  • Eat what I love and love what I eat
  • It’s okay to NOT enjoy eating sweet foods, chips, and desserts; it’s like others not liking chocolate or ice cream

Final Thoughts

Diet books did not help much as I researched information about anorexia and food allergies.  Regular cookbooks did not help much because all recipes included foods that made me sick.  So I started looking at “alternative food lifestyle” cookbooks – aka vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, and allergy friendly cookbooks – for inspiration and ideas.  That is partly how I rediscovered my love of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.

I am not vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, or meatitarian as I’ve heard people refer to themselves.  I am a woman who enjoys eating real food that comes from plants (most of  the time) and living organisms (sometimes).  Most of the food is minimally or not processed, but a lot of it is processed in some way.  I eat a variety of different foods so that most vitamins and supplements are unnecessary.  High processed and chemical-laden food products make me ill and cause problems, so I avoid or eat them in small amounts.

I still have issues with body image and having a curvy female body, but those are topics for a different post.

Thanks for reading